Showing posts with label Fukui. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fukui. Show all posts

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Protecting Kiso Valley And Its Rivers In Central Japan

I like rivers, and moreover, I like people who care about rivers...

Kiso River and the entire system that forms the Kiso Valley in Nagano, Gifu and then all the way down to Aiichi prefectures - such a treasure.

Earlier this year, I went to Magome and visited the small towns like Tsugamo that remain intact since the Edo era. I hope you can stay there and enjoy the tranquility of ancient Japan.

Just a couple of hours from some of the busiest cities on Earth, such rural places remain to inspire and educate.

These towns do a lot better than some of the "shutter towns" in more urban settings. Why? Because of tourism? I don't think so. The secret is in the appreciation of the values that have been a cornerstone of life here, for a long time.

Kiso Valley is located north east of Nagoya, a couple of hours by train, in Nagano-ken. In the old days, when voyagers were taking weeks to travel from Edo (Tokyo) to Kyoto, and all the way to Nagasaki, one of the main roads, the Nakasendo was going through the Kiso Valley

Some small towns have been kept more or less as they were a hundred years ago, in an impressive effort, with walking routes that are easy yet take you back to the age-old "sendo" paths.

Tsumago and Magome are 2 of the 69 road stations (post towns) of the Nakasendo, which were build to ensure safety of the travellers. 

Want to know more about protecting Kiso Valley? Care to participate? Do join the action-oriented Kiso Valley Min-Min no Kai:

水源の里を守ろう 木曽川流域 みん・みんの会  〒464-0075 名古屋市千種区内山3-7-11 TEL.052-745-1001 FAX.052-741-2588

Their grass root campaigns include efforts to bring kids to the river, learning about biological diversity, and growing local soy beans!

Top image from Kiso Voluntary Neighbors, or Kiso Ryuuiki Shimin Housoukyoku

Update: You know of course that you can click on any "labels" like Rivers here on Kurashi to connect to all kinds of entries - from 10 years or so of blogging.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Eco Links For May, 2014

Remember these guys that looked like they were trying to bolt from my refrigerator? I planted them and 4 months later, they have given a steady, daily harvest of tasty green peas!

Thanks to some of you who have been sending links.

The solar energy boom continues in Japan, according to Rudolf ten Hoedt in my new favourite city, Kagoshima. Well researched article published by Energy Post and others, pointing out that the boom is not without issues:

For Japan, solar obviously has priority over wind power. 6.7 GW of solar capacity was approved in Japan for the feed-in-tariff (FIT) scheme in 2013. Almost half of this was utility-scale solar.
This year, Japan is even expected to install over 10 GW of solar power, with more than half of this being utility-scale solar. The boom in utility scale solar got started by an FIT- program introduced in 2012 by the Japanese government. Under this program, regional utilities have to buy power from solar and other renewable energy producers for non-household use at pre-set prices for a period of 20 years.
When the program was first introduced, it started a gold rush. “In the beginning, there were many developers with a low level of sophistication”, says Patricia Bader-Johnston of Thurlestone Capital, a renewable energy developer that has funded over 500 MW of solar and off-shore wind projects around the globe. “Everybody who had a claim on land applied for FIT pre-purchase agreements.”

Energy Post: After the goldrush: Japan’s second solar boom

Meanwhile, if you are following the shale oil/fracking debate, that proponents claim will help get lots and lots of cheap oil from tar sand and "jumbled layers of subterranean rock" in regions like California: Not so fast, it turns out.

LA Times noted that estimates have been cut by 96% for one of the largest such area in Monterey. That was supposed to be a national "black gold mine" of petroleum.

LA Times: U.S. officials cut estimates of recoverable Monterey Shale oil by 96%

The Monterey Shale formation contains about two-thirds of the nation's shale oil reserves. It had been seen as an enormous bonanza, reducing the nation's need for foreign oil imports through the use of the latest in extraction techniques, including acid treatments, horizontal drilling and fracking.

The energy agency said the earlier estimate of recoverable oil, issued in 2011 by an independent firm under contract with the government, broadly assumed that deposits in the Monterey Shale formation were as easily recoverable as those found in shale formations elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Japan is burning more of the stuff which has lead to an increase in 8% of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the government’s Annual Report on Energy for 2013. The report was leaked to The Yomiuri and will be published later in June. The Yomiuri is fiercely promoting a return to nuclear power so I expect the actual report to be more balanced.

The Yomiuri: Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions up 8%

And if that is all too depressing, try this comedy video with John Oliver, who slams the usual reporting style when it comes to climate change. Must see!

The Guardian has more: John Oliver explained to Inquiring Minds why he found media false balance in climate reporting worthy of mockery.
"The stridency, and the intense comfort with a lack of scientific information, is ludicrous—it's objectively ludicrous. So I'm attracted to going to wherever the biggest hypocrisy is, and there feels like there's some good mining to be done regarding environmental issues…This world will be a complete ball of fire before it stops being funny."

Finally, "Justice is alive" says activists who got a court to rule against restarts of nuclear reactors in Oi near Kyoto and Osaka:

The Fukui District Court's decision that ruled against restarting the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO)'s Oi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture has delighted the residents who brought the case to the court.
Some 200 people -- including the plaintiffs of the lawsuit and their supporters -- erupted in cheers at the court after one of the plaintiffs held up a sheet of paper bearing a message, "Justice is alive," after the court handed down the landmark ruling on May 21.
The district court's ruling discussed the enormous damage brought about by the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster and declared that extremely high levels of safety and credibility are sought after for nuclear power stations. The ruling lambasted the safety measures currently in place, stating, "They are vulnerable and only work out under optimistic prospects."
Miki Murai, a 34-year-old illustrator from Fukui and one of the plaintiffs in the suit, said, "The ruling has reassured us that justice still has a conscience. We'd be too embarrassed to turn our faces toward people in Fukushima if nuclear reactors were restarted in Fukui while we are aware of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. I hope the ruling will serve as a breakthrough."
Kiyoko Mito, 78, another plaintiff and a resident of the Osaka Prefecture city of Takatsuki who has participated in anti-nuclear movements for over 40 years, shed tears upon hearing the ruling. "It is a perfect ruling that takes the residents' side. The decision is something we can be proud of not only in Japan but also in the world," she said.
Hiroyuki Kawai, a lawyer and co-leader of the Datsugenpatsu Bengodan Zenkoku Renrakukai (National liaison council of attorneys in lawsuits calling for a breakaway from nuclear power), also praised the ruling. "The ruling could become the 'Bible' of anti-nuclear movements. I want the decision to spread among courts, citizens and politicians across the country," he said.
In the meantime, the ruling saw mixed reactions among residents of the town of Oi, Fukui Prefecture, where the Oi nuclear plant is situated. "The ruling is inconceivable. My company's future has become completely invisible," said the president of an equipment company in the town that receives orders related to the Oi nuclear plant from KEPCO.
"I hope KEPCO will appeal the ruling, but I'm also worried about the possibility of the trial being prolonged. With no clear prospects for the future, local businesses will find themselves receiving fewer orders," the president said. "As it directly concerns the livelihood of our employees, I want KEPCO to restart the reactors at any cost."
A man in his 50s who runs a private inn in Oi said, "The ruling is going into depth while the central government has demonstrated its commitment to reactor reactivation. The verdict gives the impression that the courts have started to evaluate (the danger of nuclear plants), which is shocking to our local community."
Jiku Miyazaki, 70, a priest in the town who advocates against reactor reactivation, welcomed the ruling. "It's an epoch-making ruling, and I'm very much pleased. Looking at the progress of the trial, KEPCO's counterarguments lack sincerity. The court has recognized the danger of nuclear plants in an objective manner," he said.
Oi Mayor Hiroshi Nakatsuka commented on the ruling: "I can't help but accept the judicial ruling in a somber manner. I will keep an eye on the safety screenings (by the Nuclear Regulation Authority) based on its regulatory standards and see how KEPCO will react."
Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa withheld from clarifying his stance on the ruling, saying, "I have nothing to say from the standpoint of the prefectural administration." The governor, however, added that "nuclear power is an important energy source."
At the public relations section at KEPCO's headquarters in Osaka's Kita Ward, more than 10 employees stood up together and were glued to TV news as the court's ruling was reported on. They were then busy responding to numerous phone inquiries over the court decision.
"We hadn't expected a ruling against reactor restarts," said a surprised senior KEPCO official. "The ruling would inevitably affect reactor reactivation adversely when safety screenings by the Nuclear Regulation Authority are already stalled."

Friday, March 08, 2013

No Nukes 2013 Events In Tokyo This Weekend

Monday next week of course a very solemn date for all of us here in Japan, as it marks two years since the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Tohoku, northeast of Tokyo. Polls in the news this week indicate that a lot of people are still suffering and in doubt how to carry on.

The Tohoku region, and Fukushima prefecture, has such a long history. It is not easy to abandon one's roots and one's hometown. However, many people in this part of Japan were migrants in earlier eras, going to the US and Hawaii. Fukushima also has that special kind of vibe, with people from Manchuria returning after WW2, to battle against the forces of nature again. No wonder there are a lot of people in Tokyo who want to support and help any effort from Tohoku, like the Nippori March events.

You a;so get the inspiration from ladies like the Hula Girls movie, based on a true story.

Plus the fierce fishermen and everyone involved in the trade along the coast. I was particularly struck by the train lines, when I visited Tohoku, such narrow gauge lines, through old tunnels and on overpasses that were clearly not strong enough. That broken coastal line that I saw two years ago in Minamisanriku in Miyagi prefecture was beyond repair, but you cannot say that to the people who used it day-to-day.

Day by day, roads and train lines have been brought back to service in this part of Japan.

Media here has noted it but I'm not sure how much of that caught the attention abroad.

Here is a FNN local clip about a train service that is finally coming back in service after two years.

It wasn't just the massive tsunami, though. It was the Fukushima nuclear power plant, that still is not really under control, is it. As I type, I note that I don't have my usual genki Kurashi verbs and adjectives ready. Seems this is something that will be with us for 30 or 40 years. Or more. Kyoto Journal once had an article that suggested that the Fukui prefecture Zen temples may have the kind of lesson to help us through the nuclear age. Most people seem to just ignore such state of affairs.

I do wonder about this weekend. Big demonstrations and parades planned again. A year ago, some 40,000 or 60,000 or 100,000 people gathered in Tokyo to protest against nuclear power and everything that was wrong with the world. Nice photos of that event here and here and here.

Meanwhile, we have also had to deal with North Korea testing its nukes.

American expats who are bloggers in South Korea are more concerned:

UPDATE: A North Korean foreign ministry spokesperson just warned that North Korea would exercise its right to launch nuclear preemptive strikes on the “invaders strongholds.” as long as the United States is pushing to ignite a nuclear war against the North. Or something to that effect.
ORIGINAL POST: OK, North Korea’s Rodong Shinmun is warning it can turn not only Seoul, but also Washington DC into seas of fire.

- North Korea’s throwing its poo around again, this time threatening to nullify the Armistice Agreement. OK, now I’ve heard North Korea threaten to void the Armistice so many times I can’t really take it seriously, but I did find the “diversified precision nuclear strike means of Korean style” bit mildly amusing:

North Korea has also vowed to take unspecified retaliatory steps if the Security Council imposed more sanctions against the country for its third nuclear test on Feb. 12, and its latest warning amplified on such threats.
“Now that the U.S. imperialists seek to attack the DPRK with nuclear weapons, it will counter them with diversified precision nuclear strike means of Korean style,” the North Korean statement said, using the acronym of the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “The army and people of the DPRK have everything including lighter and smaller nukes unlike what they had in the past.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

So, How Many Nuclear Reactors, Out Of 54, Are OK?

Since main stream media will not do the math, I thought I would give it a try. There used to be 54. But, four at Fukushima Dai-ichi are gone due the the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. Major meltdowns.

Do we have 2, or 10, or 20, or more nuclear reactors that could actually do the job, in Japan? What is their status?

Let's start with a map, found on wikipedia.

Then, let's go from north to south.


Three reactors, the only plant in Hokkaido. "...the Tomari power facility in Hokkaido, said that it could not rule out the possibility that the plant was vulnerable." Source NHK World 20120229 and JAIF (pdf).

So, 50-3=47


So,  only one reactor, but more planned. Now, this is where things tend to get interesting:

Although the plant was in maintenance shutdown during the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, the April 7th aftershock caused the loss of all external power and the plant had to switch to backup power to supply cooling to the spent fuel pool where the reactor's fuel rods were being stored.[4][5]
On 24 October 2011 a research group under professor Mitsuhisa Watanabe of the University of Toyo published a report that raised questions about the seismic safety of the plant-site. A number of faults are present under the complex and in this study it is unclear whether these faults might be active, as some experts noted recently in the NISA safety-screening process. In the study, the researchers said that certain characteristics are typical for the existence of active faults under the plant site, when they analyzed the surveys conducted by the two utilities for constructing the reactors there. Tohoku Electric and TEPCO, denied that there were active faults, and said that the faults were shaped by the swelling of water-bearing strata. Professor emeritus from Hiroshima University, who took part in the analysis, criticized the utilities for this denial. The new report might have an effect on the decision whether to resume operations of the reactor, and could also affect the earthquake-proof safety screenings of other nuclear plants. [6]

So, shall we say, 47-1? That leaves us with 46.

Next, Onagawa. Very interesting, here we have three Toshiba reactors, all part of TEPCO that no doubt everyone knows is now in dire straits. All kinds of small "incidents" and minor leaks. Also, a fire due to the March 11, 2011 earthquake, "from the turbine section." Could they all three go on line? We have had all kinds of strong aftershocks in the same region, but... I will give them the benefit of the doubt, but that is not saying I think they are ok.

Next, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant that I visited a few years ago, and blogged about for Treehugger. It was horrific. They had no way to deal with that earthquake, it was a huge mess. Buildings were in disarray. We were on a bus but were not allowed to get off and take photos. Remember, this was before March 11, 2011. The plant was very damaged, as far as I could judge.

This is the world's largest nuclear "plant" and I do not like the word, "plant" which seems incongruous with the lack of anything actually organic, or growing. The world's most humongous electricity provider, K-K if you want to make comments, since the name of the two small towns are impossible to remember or spell... Back in beautiful Niigata, such an obscure monster, with huge power lines feeding straight into the 30 million people living in Tokyo-Chiba-Saitama from these shores.

I will spare you the technical jargon. What I saw when I visited was a mess. That was from the 2007 earthquake. No go. They will never be online at 2013, as "planned" due to all kinds of troubles. That leaves us with 46-7=39.

Next, Fukushima 1 and 2 (Dai-ichi and Dai-ni)

The four reactors at Fukushima 1 are the world's largest problem. How about the four reactors at Fukushima 2?

Let's count them out, shall we. No way they will be deemed "safe" after all those huge aftershakes and all kinds of trouble. This could, however, be a major issue as Tokyo "needs" electricity. Fukushima 2 may be part of a PR battle to get nuclear power to the capital. But, I don't think so.


Next,  Shika.

On 16 July 2012 research done by the Japanese government did reveal the strong possibility that the S-1-fault beneath the power station might be active. Raising doubts about the claim made by the company in 1997, that it is inactive. It is not allowed to built a nuclear reactor above an active quake fault. If these findings would be confirmed, the Shika power station could be labeled as sitting on premises ineligible for a nuclear power plant. 

Not sure yet, so let's just exclude them. 35-2=33.

Next, Tokai in Ibaragi. Both are now closed down. 33-2=31.

On 11 October 2011 Tatsuya Murakami, the mayor of the village Tokai, said in a meeting with minister Goshi Hosono, that the Tokai Daini reactor situated at 110 kilometer from Tokyo should be decommissioned, because the reactor was more than 30 years old, and the people had lost confidence in the nuclear safety commission of the government. [11]
In 2011 and 2012, about 100,000 signatures against the resumption of the plant's operation, halted since last year, were submitted to Ibaraki Gov. Masaru Hashimoto. The petition urges the prefectural government not to allow the Tokai power station to resume operation, saying, "We should not allow a recurrence of the irretrievable sacrifice and loss as experienced in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident".[12]

Do stay with me, I am only trying to go through the list, as of December 2012


Next, Mihama. Unclear how bad the seismic faults are. This is right net to the Tsuruga Nuclear Power Plant, that is also on our current map. I would rather see it all shut down, since the stakes are so high, and the data is not conclusive. This is all too near to Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe for anyone to feel safe.

On 12 November 2011 at 7:45 PM local time a fire broke out in the No. 1 reactor. After a switch for a spare electrical device at the water processing facility was operated by a worker, the fire was ignited because a short circuit caused a series of hot sparks. After the fire was put out, no casualties were reported. JAPC said that there was no leakage of radiation, because the reactor was closed for inspection.

The whole region of Kansai is dependent on Lake Biwa because it is the source of drinking water for the whole region...

Mihama 3 and Tsuruga 2 (another 2 planned) so we get 31-5=26

Next, (interesting how Kansai cities like Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe have nuclear reactors close by, while Tokyo kept them much further away, in Fukushima and Niigata) we go to Monju, Takahama

...not much we know about Takahama, I'd say we had better pay more attention. But, so far, four that are not on line, and in a lot of doubt. Thus we get 26-4=22.

On 17 February 2012, Kansai Electric Power Co. announced that on 21 February 2012 reactor no. 3 would taken off the grid for a regular checkup and maintenance. After that date, only two commercial nuclear power plants were still operating in Japan: The no. 6 reactor of TEPCO at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in prefecture Niigata, which was scheduled for checkups on 26 March 2012, and the No. 3 reactor at the Tomari plant in Hokkaido of Hokkaido Electric Power Co.; there regular maintenance was planned in late April 2012.[2][3] From 5 May until 1 July 2012, Japan had no operating nuclear power plants. In July Ōi Nuclear Power Plant units 3 and 4 became Japan's only operating nuclear power plant.

And then there is Oi.

The Ōi Nuclear Power Plant is a nuclear power plant located in the town of Ōi, Fukui Prefecture, managed by the Kansai Electric Power Company. The site is 1.88 square kilometres (460 acres).[1] As of December 2012, Ōi Units 3 and 4 are Japan's only operating nuclear power plants.

Where were we? 22?

How about Shimane. Two nuclear reactors at this plant.

The English wikipedia page has some dubious links. Not good. Unless wiki gets better, we are still at 22 nuclear plants for Hokkaido, and Honshu.

There are three more plants, however, on Kyushu and Shikoku.


On 9 December 2011 a leak was discovered in the cooling-system of reactor 3. After a temperature-rise over 80C at the base of one of the pumps an alarm was triggered, but this alarm did not indicate the leakage of 1.800 cubic meter of radioactive water, because the water did not go outside the purification system. After the leak was discovered Kyushu Electric failed to report the troubles in full to the local government. Only the failure of the pumps in the system for the No. 3 reactor were mentioned.[13]

As of September 2012, Saga prefecture is aiming to have the Genkai reactors permanently retired after 40 years of operation, meaning that reactor 1 will close in 2015.[14] A citizens' group sued to have the reactors shut down immediately, but the state argued that there is no process in Japanese law that could cause an industry's operations to cease through a civil, rather than criminal, action.[15


On 14 December 2011 the Kyushu Electric Power Company published the outcome of the primary safety assessments or "stress-tests" for three of its suspended nuclear reactors: two of them located at the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant in prefecture Kagoshima Prefecture, the third at was located the Genkai Nuclear Power Plant in Saga prefecture. The reports were sent to the Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. The papers were also sent to the local authorities of the prefectures where the plants were located, because the reactors are not allowed to be restarted without their consent. According to the test, the reactors could withstand a seismic shock of 945 to 1,020 gals and tsunami-waves of a height of 13 to 15 meters. The power company asked its customers to reduce their power-consumption by at least 5% after 26 December, because at 25 December the number 4 reactor in Genkai would be taken out of operation for regular check-ups. Nuclear power generation did account for about 40 percent of the total output of the company, according to company official Akira Nakamura. He said that restarting reactors was crucial for them, and that the company will do all it can do to win back public-trust. However, Hideo Kishimoto, the mayor of Genkai said that it would be difficult to resume operations. He asked Kyushu Electric to disclose their practices in full, besides their efforts to prevent future accidents.[2]



Maintenance in 2011

On Sunday 4 September reactor no. 1 was shut down for regular inspections. These check-ups would last at least three months. At that time reactor No.3 was also shut down, although the normal inspections were long time finished before September. To resume operation, a stress test was required for all suspended reactors by the government, after the accidents in Fukushima. The Ehime prefectural government said it would decide whether to approve the resumption of operations after the results of the safety test came out. The Shikoku Electric Power Company said that if the No. 3 reactor did not resume operations, power supplies would be very tight in winter when electricity demand would be high. It was considered to restart a thermal power-plant which had been long out of use. [5]

Nuclear evacuation drill held in 2012
In February 2012 an evacuation drill was held in the prefecture Ehime and Shimane. The drill was done to mimic the situation of a reactor cooling failure after a huge earthquake. The evacuation-zones were expanded from 10 to 30 kilometers after the disaster in Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In this evacuation drill some 10.000 people were taken out of the area round the nuclear power plant, with buses, helicopters and boats of the Maritime Self-Defense Force. The residents in the town of Ikata, commanded by disaster announcements on the radio to gather at a junior high school. From there they were taken by buses to a shelter some 50 kilometers further. This drill was the very first ever executed on this scale, and it was also the first time that so many people were evacuated out from their town. [6] [7]

Ikata is one of the plants that may use MOX fuel.

20-22 "maybe OK" nuclear plants? But what to do about the radioactive waste, the plutonium, the dangerous fallout from all kinds of minor/major incidents...?


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sign Of Relief: Hamaoka Not To Be Restarted, Soon

The Hamaoka nuclear power plant was the first one I was made aware of, and campaigned against, back when I was working on another project (about food safety and antibiotic resistance) for Japan Offspring Fund. Now I am pleased to hear that there is very little chance of it going back online. The Shizuoka governor seems to share the deep concerns not only about the earthquake fault it is on top of, but also the lack of tsunami protection.

Back then, I think it was 2005, we just thought there was enough evidence that that particular plant was unsafe.

Of course, after March 11, 2011, we know that massive earthquakes can cause massive damage, much worse than we could imagine, back then. Of course, the damage can be contained, and life goes on. But the Hamaoka nuclear power plant is situated at such a location that if a similar event to the Fukushima disaster were to strike, then Tokyo (and eastern Japan) would basically be cut off from Osaka (and western Japan). The Shinkansen and other important routes would be hard hit. Politically and in the sense of a national economy, it would split the country in two. Not acceptable. Of course, the farmers and people living in the area would also have to be evacuated, and this is a busy industrial zone with many important corporations...

The Mainichi (J)

Having said that, I am not sure we are about to convince the people who think Japan ought to restart all its 50 or so nuclear reactors, and get on with it. In fact, I'm curious to hear from the pro-nuclear people, just which reactors they think Japan should restart, and which to not restart? Should Hamaoka be restarted?

Come on, give me a list, which ones do you think ought to be restarted?

Currently, end of June, 2012 no nuclear power plants are on line, an amazing state of events for one of the world's top economic powers. (We are doing OK, by the way, in case you were wondering!)

Meanwhile, massive protests against the Oi reactors in Fukui prefecture, with some people in Kyoto, Japan's main tourist destination nearby, noting that they have no real plans if disaster would strike.

Shiga Gov. Yukuko Kada accuses Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of emphasizing plant site safety to the exclusion of any discussion of safety procedures in the communities surrounding the plants.
"They still ignore the residents, and that's what angers me most," said Kada, an environmental scientist and independent politician.
Kada said Noda's government has refused to provide radiation simulation data that she has requested to compile an evacuation map and study the impact of radiation on Lake Biwa, where monitoring stations still need to be installed.
"I'm horrified by the thought that another Fukushima-class crisis could instantly make the lake water undrinkable," she said.
The neighboring city of Kyoto — Japan's biggest tourist destination — has only a tentative crisis plan, and its first-ever drill is still three months away, city disaster manager Fujio Yoshida said. Its contingency plans need to take into account a large number of foreign visitors, he said."Until Fukushima, we never imagined radiation reaching our city [Kyoto] or the need for crisis plans," he said.

Also in the news, the proposed Kaminoseki nuclear reactors in Yamaguchi prefecture, which have not yet been built, may have been halted. I blogged about the film Ashes to Honey, the third film on the global nuclear issue from acclaimed director Hitomi Kamanaka, Japanese title ミツバチの羽音と地球の回転 (Mitsubachi no Haoto to Chikyū no Kaiten, 2010).

You could probably make an amazing, fantastic film about just about every nuclear reactor that has ever been built, around the world. Each one must have gone so many secret and public processes. Some have been built after paying off the locals, other are strongly supported because they provide jobs, and some are now in question because they may be unsafe. I'm reminded of the legal concept of "reasonable doubt" and of course the "precautionary principle" but is it enough? We do not seem to have a moral or ethical way to deal with nuclear power plants. We just ignore them, and hope they are safe, but then, when they are not, what can we do?

Update: I just noticed that I actually noted Kamanaka's first film, about Japan's nuclear reprocessing plant in the village of Rokkasho in Aomori Prefecture here on Kurashi back in 2006.

Image of the Hamaoka nuclear plant control room, with faces blocked out for privacy, from the blog by Fukuoka Yumio (J), who visited Hamaoka in March, 2010, and who asked the very good question, if we really should continue to be あいまい aimai (vague) about how Japan should supply its energy.

Update 2: Mitsuru Obe, over at The WSJ blog Japan Real Time says:

So which of the country’s 50 reactors are safest to operate?
A bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers– all of whom support reducing Japan’s reliance on nuclear power– looked into that question. They ranked the reactors by nine criteria, including reactor age and type, accident records, average operating rates, quake vulnerability and proximity to large population centers.
They found the 10 safest reactors are run by three utilities — Kyushu Electric Power Co. (6), Shikoku Electric Power Co. (2) and Hokkaido Electric Power Co. (2). They are the smallest of Japan’s 10 utilities, and their plants are relatively new, and located far from large cities.
The worst performer is Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tsuruga No. 1 reactor, which was recently found to have an active fault running right underneath.
Tsuruga is followed by Oi Nos. 1-2, Mihama Nos. 1-3, and Hamaoka Nos. 3-5. Of the worst 10, five are owned by Kansai Electric Power Co., and three by Chubu Electric Power Co., the nation’s second and third largest utilities. The still-operational reactors of Tokyo Electric Power Co., which runs Fukushima Daiichi, came in toward the middle of the rankings. But all Tepco’s reactors were on a second list of facilities the lawmakers thought should be scrapped, based on the risks of future earthquakes or damage done by recent quakes. Tepco’s remaining reactors have all suffered damage from earthquakes in 2007 and 2011.
The bottom 10 ranking reactors are all 30 years old or more, except for the three Hamaoka reactors, which are newer but sitting in a region with a high risk of being hit by a Magnitude 8 earthquake.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

40 Year Old Nuclear Reactors To Be Restarted? I Don't Think So

So we all accept that technology tends to make life better, right... Except, some things like nuclear reactors, are not easily replaced because they are so expensive to build and difficult to run. Now, Japan wants to restart old reactors, that have been idled due to fears after last year's massive earthquake and tsunami. This is how I think about it:

Almost nobody would drive a car that is 40 years old, and most of our gadgets from back then have been replaced or abandoned. Somehow, the nuclear power plants are an exception. 30 or 40 years ago, well, people made great things, but since then a lot has changed. In Tokyo, for example, nobody wants to live in a building that was constructed before 1981, when the new earthquake rules came in force.

Or take your old bath tub from back then. I'm not joking, but it is rather funny how old Japanese baths were so complicated in the 1970s and 1980s. I happen to have one made by Hitatchi, it is hilarious how many levers and cranks are needed to get the hot water to flow. Some of it is for safety, some just because it was the trend of the day, 30-40 years ago. All kinds of old tubing and plastics and rubber devices. So, you can imagine I am not too thrilled to hear that the government and the nuclear industry want to extend the 40-year limit on the country's nuclear reactors. I mean, these power plants are old. Very old!

The Mainichi: 40-year limit on nuclear reactors a basic requirement

After the outbreak of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the government said Japan would decrease its reliance on nuclear power. We have also called on the government to abandon the construction of new nuclear reactors and shut down existing reactors in the order of the risks they pose, decreasing the overall number of reactors in Japan. The 40-year limit has served as an important yardstick in this respect.

Currently, the wear on a reactor is evaluated 30 years into its operational life, and with the government's approval, the reactor's life can be extended in 10-year increments. However, even when old reactors are found to have safety-related faults, it is difficult to incorporate new technology into them.

The LDP stated it could not agree with a blanket 40-year limit on reactors -- probably from the opinion that differences between old and new model reactors and other such factors should be taken into consideration. However, reactors that are new now will be old in 40 years. In breaking away from nuclear power, there is great significance in placing a ceiling on the life of reactors. The new regulatory commission should clarify its standards for deciding on the decommissioning of reactors, and make it possible to decommission reactors before their age reaches 40 years.

Images from Antique Japanese Bathtub and Shibuya 246 - a bath that I estimate to be about 30-40 years old, much like the nuclear power plants that are currently not on-line due to concerns about their safety.

Would you like to drive a car that is 30-40 years old, except for special events, like classic car races? I don't think so.


Some 11,000 people protested outside Prime Minister Noda's residence this weekend, urging him not to restart the Ohi nuclear plants in Fukui prefecture. The first 2 power plants at Ohi went online in March and December 1979, some 33 years ago. Reactors 3 and 4, that are currently being debated, went on line in December 1991 and February 1993, some 20 years ago.

A coalition of six groups Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), FoE Japan, Green Action, No Nukes Asia Forum, Peace Boat, and Shut Tomari have united to organize international protest against nuclear restart in Japan. Despite intense public opposition (see Women "die-in" at the Ohi reactor June 7th), and international celebration for the shut down of all reactors in Japan, officials have turned a blind eye, and are proceeding with plans to restart the mismanaged Ohi reactor in Fukui Prefecture, Western Japan.

The coalition is urging support to conduct the following acts of civil protest, preferably on Wednesday to Friday this week / June 13-15, 2012:
  1. Please assemble in front of the Japanese embassies in your capital to voice your protest against the decision and policy of Prime Minister Noda.
  2. Please try to submit a letter of protest -addressed to Prime Minister Noda- to the Japanese Ambassador in your country and request the Japanese Ambassador to forward this letter of protest to the Japanese Prime Minister
  3. Please try to seek coverage of this action by your local and international media, especially Japanese media, as well as on the Internet
  4. Please give us notice about your planned action, so we can organize a press event in Japan to reinforce your message to the Japanese government.
Some actions in Tokyo and Osaka include the following:

Time: Friday, June 15, 2012, 6 to 8 pm.
Location: In front of the prime minister’s official residence. (In front of Kokkai Kisha Kaikan, right outside #3 exit at Kokkaigijidomae station.)
Organizer: The Metropolitan area anti nuclear power plant alliance members.

Time: Friday, June 15, 2012, 6 to 8 pm.
Location: In front of Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) headquarter. (6-16 Sancho-me, Nakanoshima, Kita-ku, Osaka-city, Osaka Prefecture)

More information at Fukushima Voice and Ten Thousand Things (thanks!)

Friday, June 01, 2012

Who's In Charge In The Nuclear Age?

I'm confused about who makes the decision here in Japan regarding nuclear reactors. I thought it was based on local, not national government decrees. In other words, if a nuclear reactor in say, Ohi, a place you most likely have never heard of, is in question, the national government in Tokyo has to wait until the Ohi town and Fukui prefecture have made up their minds.

I'm reluctant to argue with Shisaku, a blog I like a lot, but his only source for a recent post about Osaka governor Hashimoto having "backed away from full opposition to a restart of the Oi reactors, paving the way for them to be brought back online" is a dubious blog entry from the Wall Street Journal. MTC, that is not quite good enough, is it?

Shisaku: Hashimoto Toru Comes Back Down To Earth
WSJ Japan Real Time Blog: Japan Reactor Restart Countdown: Approaching Zero?

In fact, on May 31, The Yomiuri has a different take on the events, as they continue to unfold:

Meanwhile, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who participated in the meeting via a teleconference system, criticized Hosono's remark that the government's standards for restarting the reactors compiled in April are "provisional and will be tightened" under a planned new nuclear regulatory body. "If the standards are provisional, judgments on safety will also be provisional," Hashimoto argued.

The Yomiuri: Hosono: Safety will be ensured for Oi restart

NHK, meanwhile, is not so sure that the re-start will happen next week:

Japan's government says it hopes to announce the restart of Ohi nuclear plant as early as next week, if it can win the final consent of host municipalities. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda met his cabinet ministers in charge of nuclear issues on Wednesday: Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura, Economy and Industry Minister Yukio Edano and Nuclear Crisis Minister Goshi Hosono. The ministers agreed that most municipalities near the offline facility support the restart, though with reservations.

But they noted that the plant's host Ohi Town and Fukui Prefecture remain undecided. The government says it will also send a senior official to Fukui to again explain its commitment to safety.

NHK World: Restart of Ohi plant may be declared next week

Reading Japanese news, Osaka prefectural governor Ichirō Matsui said on Thursday that he was against restarting the nuclear reactors, and felt the process was unsatisfactory (不十分, fu-juubun), according to The Mainichi (J).

I'm reminded of the speech in the 1964 film, Seven Days in May, where Lyman, the president says (as he is about to face the "enemy"):

"He's not the enemy. Scott, the Joint Chiefs, even the very emotional, very illogical lunatic fringe: they're not the enemy. The enemy's an age - a nuclear age. It happens to have killed man's faith in his ability to influence what happens to him. And out of this comes a sickness, and out of sickness a frustration, a feeling of impotence, helplessness, weakness. And from this, this desperation, we look for a champion in red, white, and blue. Every now and then a man on a white horse rides by, and we appoint him to be our personal god for the duration."

"The nuclear age, having killed man's faith in his ability to influence what happens to him..."

What a great line.

(Hat tip to P for recommending that classic motion picture!)